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A New Education Secretary, A New SexEd Agenda For Missouri?

December 17, 2008

St. Louis, MO - They're hoping in Missouri that Arne Duncan will lead a reform movement in how kids are taught about sex. Sex education advocates say research data from a Guttmacher Institute study indicates that an abstinence-only approach isn't working, and they're optimistic that Education Secretary nominee Duncan can help bring change. The Institute is a national non-profit focused on sexual and reproductive health research.

Last year, Missouri legislators voted to take "medically-accurate" language out of sex education in order to be able to receive federal abstinence-only funds. Supporters of abstinence say teaching contraceptive use promotes sexual activity. But Reverend Rebecca Turner of Faith Aloud says Missouri kids aren't getting solid, accurate information, and believes that could be connected to increased unplanned pregnancies in the state.

"Young people have frequently been taught that condoms don't work, that birth control doesn't work, and so those kids say, 'Well, what's the point, anyway?', and they don't use it."

Turner says both forms of education teach kids to wait, but comprehensive sex education also teaches how to practice safer sex. Her organization promotes reproductive justice from a standpoint of faith and religion. She says sex education has been decimated in Missouri public schools over the past eight years.

"It is a moral value to tell our kids the truth, to give them full, accurate information; to do anything less for them is immoral and unethical."

Faith Aloud will push for a new bill next legislative session to put the Missouri law on sex education back to its 2005 status, in which the "medically-accurate" language would become the minimum standard of sex education in the state.

For more information, visit www.faithaloud.org

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO